Having built its reputation on achieving its goals, Singapore is now a financial, technological and scientific hub, an economic powerhouse that underwent accelerated evolution from Third World to First. Its next goal: doubling the media industry’s contribution to the GDP by 2012. But can government investment stimulate something as intangible as creativity?
Three years into its Media 21 Blueprint, it would appear the Media Development Authority’s determination and support is already paying off.
“In the last couple of years, Singapore’s media industry has made significant inroads into the international market, with a slate of co-production projects with leading international players across various platforms, and an increasing demand for made-by-Singapore content,” says Christopher Chia, CEO of the Media Development Authority of Singapore. “The Singapore media industry will continue to consolidate its presence in the global arena under a unified front called ‘Singapore Media Fusion’ that will be launched at Mipcom.”
“Two MDA- and Singapore Film Commission-funded films have been making waves recently,” says Man Shu Sum, director of broadcast & film development, at the MDA. “‘The Missing Star,’ co-produced by Italian film companies Cattleya and RAI Cinema, French company Babe, Singapore production company Oak3 Films and the MDA, recently won two independent awards given out at the Venice Film Festival, where it made its world premiere.” And a memorandum of understanding has been signed by Singapore-based One Ton Cinema to co-produce “Armful” with Andy Lau’s Focus Films, says Man.
“Armful” benefited from SFC’s Project Development Scheme, one of a number of plans established to support and facilitate the different stages of filmmaking, from development and skills development to production and promotion. Two recent beneficiaries from this grant are independent productions “A Hero’s Journey” and “Singapore Dreaming.”
Support for the relatively nascent local film industry is also evident from other sectors.
“We have just opened ‘Singapore Dreaming,’ distributed by Golden Village, directed by Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, which (played) in the New Directors sidebar at the San Sebastian fest,” says Golden Village managing director Kenneth Tan. “In my view, ‘Singapore Dreaming’ is the best Singaporean feature film so far, in terms of achieving a balance between indigenous appeal and international sensibilities.”
And it is finding this balance between local appeal and international accesssibility that motivates Daniel Yun, CEO of MediaCorp Raintree Pictures.
“We’re focusing on smaller, edgier titles to take on the festival circuit. But we’re also still searching for our breakout hit that puts Singapore on the filmmaking map,” he says.
This philosophy has yielded a number of interesting projects. Kelvin Tong will start shooting horror-sequel “Maid 2” early 2007, while romance “The Leap Years” will be released in February. Other pics on the slate include “One Last Dance,” set for a November release; “Protege,” with Hong Kong’s Applause Pictures; and “One Day of Ibrahim,” to be shot in Kenya. “Tattooist” and “Altar” comes from a co-production deal with New Zealand, while a co-prod pact with Fortissimo Films and Australia has borne “The Home Song Stories” for which Yun has hopes at Cannes in 2007.
As for MDA’s aspirations for the Singapore Media Fusion campaign, Chia says, “Several international media personalities who have collaborated with local media players in the past projects are featured in a communications campaign in testament to the strengths and potential of Singapore’s media industry.”
Dubbed “I Made It in Singapore,” it highlights the growing capabilities of the Singapore media industry that are increasingly attracting international recognition and demand, Chia says.